More than 17,000 customers lost power in Maine on Thursday morning after high wind gusts took down tree limbs and power lines.

A city of Gardiner truck sits in front of a half-fallen school speed limit sign Thursday near the Gardiner Regional Middle School on Cobbossee Avenue in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

According to Central Maine Power’s website, 17,248 customers were without power across the state around 1 p.m. Thursday. Central Maine Power spokesperson Catharine Hartnett said that number shot up since 8:30 a.m. when only 1,400 customers were without power.

In Kennebec County, about 1,100 customers were without power around 10:30 a.m, with more than 900 of them in Litchfield. Power was restored around 11:45 a.m. Thursday and only three customers were without power in Kennebec County around 4:30 p.m.

Hartnett said high wind is the culprit for the outages and it hampered the restoration effort, making it difficult to make repairs in lifts. She said line crews and about 70 contractors are spread throughout the company’s coverage area working on restoring power.

Hunter Tubbs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the strongest wind gusts continued into the early afternoon. He said coastal areas are seeing the most extreme gusts, between 40 and 50 mph, while the central part of the state has gusts of 30 to 35 mph.

Tubbs said there is a potential for “urban and street flooding,” as storm drains may be clogged by existing snow, but the weather service is not predicting any river flooding at this time.

He said above-freezing temperatures in the afternoon will drop at night and into Friday, which will cause freezing and slower melting of any accumulating precipitation. Tubbs said no snow is expected in the Augusta area, but northern and western areas of the state will see some snow.

Traffic slows as the roads become icy with reports of cars leaving the road on Interstate 95 near Pittsfield on Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans Buy this Photo

Forecasts showed that half-an-inch of snow could accumulate in the Waterville area, while 3 to 5 inches will accumulate in the Farmington area by Thursday evening.

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 260 customers were without power in Somerset County while 652 customers were without power in Franklin County.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Gregory Dore told the Kennebec Journal said he was expecting 3 to 7 inches of snow. He said crews will go out around 5:30 p.m. in hopes to clean off the roads before freezing temperatures adhere snow to the roads.

“Whatever we don’t get off the road tonight is going to be there for a while,” he said. “We’ll come up tonight and scrape and sand with salt added in hopes we can get it all by tomorrow.”

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